About the Government Relations Office
The University of Toronto Government Relations Office works to build understanding of the positive impact of our University with government, private sector and community stakeholders. We support the efforts of government to develop solutions to public policy challenges by providing valuable advice and expertise. Our office is also a resource for the University community, providing advice on how to engage with all levels of government.
GRO is organized into three units: Government Relations and Public Policy, University Relations, and Stakeholder Engagement and Strategic Initiatives. Across our units, the goal is to ensure that governments recognize and support the unique role played by the University of Toronto in civic, provincial, and national capacity-building.
Our office works on the University’s three campuses to build relationships with political representatives across the GTA. At the University of Toronto Mississauga, our elected officials are: MP Iqra Khalid (Mississauga-Erin Mills); MPP Sheref Sabawy (Mississauga-Erin Mills); and Councillor Matt Mahoney, Councillor for Ward 8, Mississauga City Council. At the St. George Campus, our representatives are MP Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale), MPP Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale), and Councillor Mike Layton, Councillor for Ward 11, the City of Toronto. At the University of Toronto Scarborough, the University works with MP Gary Anandasangaree (Scarborough-Rouge Park), MPP Vijay Thanigasalm (Scarborough-Rouge Park), and Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, Councillor for Ward 25, the City of Toronto.
In addition, we collaborate with key private and non-profit sector organizations including the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Public Policy Forum and the C.D.Howe Institute.
Meet the Team
Director, Operations and Chief of Staff
Amanda joined the University in 2007, holding progressive roles in the government relations portfolio. She previously worked in policy and program development in the government of Ontario. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Toronto (Hon.BA) and University of Alberta (MA). She has been recognized with an Excellence Through Innovation award, a Cressy award, and the U of T gold medal in political science.
Chief of Government Relations
Andrew on Twitter
Andrew Thomson is the University’s Chief of Government Relations and serves on the President’s senior leadership team. As chief advocate to federal, provincial, and municipal governments, he helps drive the University’s public policy agenda. This includes a focus on community and economic development; strengthening public funding for comprehensive and globally recognized, research-intensive programs; and knowledge transfer strategies to support entrepreneurship and job creation.
Andrew’s executive experience, in both public and private sectors, has focused extensively on issues of economic and human capital development. With more than a decade in elected office, and experience serving in senior Cabinet roles — including as Saskatchewan’s Minister of Finance and Minister of Learning — he has a deep understanding of government policy. As an executive with Cisco Systems, based in Toronto and subsequently the Asia Pacific region, he led public sector initiatives focused on creating new partnership and business models within the higher education sector across OECD and emerging markets.
Andrew holds a Bachelor of Arts (1990) from the University of Saskatchewan and is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002) for his service to the community.
Executive Lead, Strategic Engagement
Rhonda leads strategic initiatives to promote the missions and priorities of the University. She brings broad experience in communications and strategic planning to the GRO team, having served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Communications in the Ontario Government’s Cabinet Office, and as VP of Communications and Corporate Affairs for the Ontario Cannabis Store. Prior to joining the provincial government, she was a television and radio reporter in Toronto, Ottawa and Kingston. Rhonda has an Honours BA in English from Queen’s University, and is a Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.
Director, Government Relations and Public Policy
Forrest’s work focuses on advancing the public policy interests of the University with governments at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. Previously, Forrest was Vice President, National Partnerships at Mitacs, Director of Public Affairs at a global e-commerce organization, and served as a political advisor to Cabinet Ministers at the provincial and federal levels. Forrest holds a BA and MA from Simon Fraser University.
Research Analyst and Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator
Kenzie joins the University having worked in various Minister’s Offices of the Government of Ontario, including the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, the President of the Treasury Board, the Minister Responsible for Digital Government, and the Minister Responsible for Small Business. Kenzie holds a Master of Arts from York University (2015), and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Guelph (2014).
Senior Policy Advisor
Alex brings more than six years of experience as an advisor to a number of cabinet ministers in the Government of Ontario, including the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and most recently, the Minister of Economic Development and Growth. Previously, Alex held positions at OMERS pension plan and the City of Toronto. He has also been the owner and operator of a small business in Toronto. He holds a Master’s Degree in Political Studies from Queen’s University where he also completed his Bachelor’s (Honours) Degree in Political Studies and Sociology.
Senior Policy Advisor, Stakeholder Engagement
Simona initiates and supports new and existing relationships with external and internal stakeholders through a variety of communication and engagement channels. She brings 20 years of experience in journalism to her role, including as an editor, reporter, writer and broadcast producer. Her journalism career spans roles at the Canadian Press, CityTV and The Globe and Mail, where she was education editor and postsecondary reporter. Simona has a PhD in political science from the University of Toronto (2016) and brings first-hand experience of the research and training ecosystem of the university to her position.
Municipal Affairs Advisor
Mark both monitors and advises on municipal relations issues involving the City of Toronto and its elected officials and staff, as well as City agencies, boards, and commissions. Mark has worked as a senior staff member with two Mayors of Toronto: Barbara Hall and Mel Lastman, where he served as the Coordinator of Research, Community Outreach & Special Projects. He has worked as a public affairs professional with two leading government relations firms, Urban Consulting and prior to that, with Urban Intelligence Ltd. where he coordinated in-depth municipal research projects across Canada. Mark’s prior career also included serving as a municipal affairs reporter with the CHUM Radio network, and on the assignment desk of CTV News in Ottawa, where he had also chaired the Regional government’s Board of Health and served as a City and Regional councillor.
Munira is responsible for developing and implementing GRO’s engagement strategy within which she coordinates projects that showcase the University’s expertise and relevance in public policy development. Munira began her career in Canada at the University of Toronto in 2001 in the Office of the President. Prior to joining then Government Relations team in June 2008, Munira worked in women’s health and global health research units of the Faculty of Medicine. Munira holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Toronto and will soon complete her MA at OISE.